Can I Have Sex When I'm Sick?

When you're sick, your sex drive doesn't always get the memo that it should let you rest. So is it okay to have sex when you're under the weather?

If you've just got the sniffles, a healthy partner may not be risking much. But they could catch whatever you have.

Respiratory illnesses are passed through droplets and saliva. Kissing, breathing close to each others' faces, coughing, or sneezing while in close contact is a great way to spread germs.

So your partner is quite likely to get sick if you're intimate. Whether the risk is worth it depends on what you have and what risks it may pose to your partner's health.

This article looks at the risks of sex during illness, when you're contagious, and what to consider for your partner's benefit.

Can I Have Sex With a Fever?

Verywell / Laura Porter

If You Have a Fever

If you're running a fever, you're likely contagious. Fevers can make you achy and tired. So you probably don't feel much like having sex.

But if you are in the mood, consider this: Researchers say strenuous exercise—including sex—can:

  • Make you sicker
  • Raise your risk of dehydration
  • Boost your fever to dangerous levels

It's best to wait on sex until your temperature is normal. Even then, make sure you stay hydrated.

Recap

If you have a fever, sex can make you sicker. It's best to abstain until you're healthy.

If You Have the Flu

If you have the flu (not just a bad cold), it's probably safest to skip the sex until you're better. Influenza is a serious illness. And close, physical contact increases the chances of passing it along.

Most people with influenza don't have the energy to have sex anyway. You'll probably enjoy it a lot more if you wait until you're healthy.

Influenza vs. "Stomach Flu"

Influenza is a respiratory illness. It doesn't make you sick to your stomach. What people often call "stomach flu" is actually gastroenteritis—an illness completely unrelated to the influenza virus.

When You're Contagious

How long you're contagious varies by the illness. Most common germs can spread during the first few days of symptoms.

But others can spread for as long as symptoms are present. Some, like COVID-19, are contagious before symptoms start. Still others are spreadable even after you feel better.

The flu is contagious 24 hours before symptoms start. Then you're contagious for five to seven days. That means you may pass on the virus even if you've started to feel better.

If you have a weak or suppressed immune system, you may be contagious for even longer.

Consider Your Partner's Health

If your partner isn't already sick with the same illness you have, they'd probably prefer to avoid catching it. Even if they're the one initiating intimacy, bring up the risk.

Consider how your illness may affect your partner. Are they in a high-risk group that is likely to have more serious symptoms than the average person? Do they have a weakened immune system due to any medications or conditions? If so, it's probably not a chance worth taking.

Some chronic conditions can be worsened by sexual activity. If you or your partner has one, ask your healthcare provider if you're healthy enough for sex. That's especially important if you have a flu or other illness on top of your usual health issues.

Summary

Some illnesses may get worse if you exert yourself with sexual activity. Fevers can spike dangerously. The flu virus and other germs can spread.

It's hard to say whether you're contagious unless you know what you have. Different illnesses are contagious at different stages and for different durations.

Think about the possible impact of illness on your partner. If they have health problems, it may be smartest to wait until you're healthy.

A Word From Verywell

Being sick isn't sexy. That doesn't mean you won't crave intimacy.

But it does mean it might be wise to explore less-strenuous sexual activities or other ways to connect with a partner. That can help lower the risk of passing on your illness.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can having sex help me get over a cold faster?

    There's no evidence that's the case. In fact, using that much energy may mean your cold lasts longer.

    But sexual arousal may temporarily relieve a stuffy nose. Adrenaline makes blood vessels constrict. So reducing blood flow to vessels in the nasal passages and sinuses can help you breathe better.

  • Can having sex help prevent illness?

    Maybe, at least according to one very small study. It found that people who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva than those who had sex less frequently, not at all, or three or more times a week.

  • Is there a safe way to have sex during the COVID epidemic?

    No, there's no way to have sex without risking COVID-19 infection. Even if you and your partner are fully vaccinated, it's still possible to get infected and to pass the virus to someone.

    It's even possible to have a breakthrough infection that causes symptoms. But vaccination means you're unlikely to become seriously ill.

  • When can my partner and I have sex after one of us has had COVID-19?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying away from other people until:

    • It's been at least 10 days since symptoms started.
    • Symptoms have cleared up or are improving (though some symptoms, such as loss of taste or smell, can persist long after a person is no longer infectious).
    • You've been free of a fever for at least 24 hours without having taken a fever-reducing medication.
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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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